Dr. Marshall suggests practicing THREE PRINCIPLES when teaching and when dealing with situations that require the use of discipline: POSITIVITY, CHOICE and REFLECTION. These THREE PRINCIPLES are the second step of the Discipline without Stress Teaching Model.
Dr. Marshall encourages adults to verbalize all they say in a positive way, even when the situation itself might be perceived as negative. For example, when noticing students running in the hall, teachers might typically say, “No running!” Instead, the same message could be stated in a positive way: “We walk in the halls.” Student cooperation is encouraged when the tone of the classroom/school is one of positivity.
With this discipline approach, students are proactively taught about “choice-response thinking” which will be familiar to you if you know Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Choice-response thinking means that regardless of the situation, the circumstances, or even “what the other person did,” an individual ALWAYS has a choice in how they respond.
This is what the word “responsibility” actually indicates–people have the ABILITY to RESPOND in any way they choose. Often people act NON-consciously and then are surprised by the results of their actions, but we can teach students that it is possible to learn to consciously CHOOSE their responses.
Dr. Marshall stresses the importance of giving young people the opportunity to make choices in their lives. He teaches that “choice empowers “ and that the Principle of Choice is particularly important whenever the use of discipline is necessary. Some measure of choice should always be made available to students who are operating on an unacceptable level. Without choices, an individual usually experiences a sense of coercion. These days, coercion often leads to resistance or even defiance from young people.
Dr. Marshall explains that although the actual choices offered to misbehaving students can be almost insignificant, some choice is critical. Asking a student to make a choice accomplishes two things:
1. The student immediately experiences a sense of self-control in the situation thus allowing them to feel EMpowered–as opposed to OVERpowered.
2. Offering choices often diffuses the emotional charge of a tense situation. The misbehaving student is prompted to think in a more positive direction because he/she is required to make a choice between two or three options–all of which are acceptable to the teacher.
Sometimes people new to Discipline without Stress, form the mistaken impression that a student should be given the choice to behave in any way they want. This isn’t the case. Allowing young people to continue making poor choices leads to chaos and is simply permissive. Discipline without Stress does not advocate permissiveness. For example, a misbehaving student may be offered some choice as to where he/she would like to complete an assignment, but continuing to misbehave or the completion of the assignment itself, are not choices.
In a DISCIPLINE without STRESS classroom, students are taught from the outset that not all choices are acceptable. Operation on the two lowest levels of the hierarchy, Level A (Anarchy) and Level B (Bullying/Bossing) is never acceptable. Only the two highest levels are acceptable—Level C (Cooperation/Conformity) and Level D (Democracy).
A very important part of this discipline approach involves ASKING young people to reflect on their own behavior (either positive or negative), rather than TELLING them what the teacher thinks about what they are choosing to do. Discipline without Stress teachers train themselves to ask questions that will encourage students to think honestly to themselves about the results of their actions and choices. By prompting students to think about the results of their choices, an adult is much more likely to be successful in helping them to make positive and productive choices in the future.
For many adults, the principle of REFLECTION is initially the most challenging of the THREE PRINCIPLES to implement. It requires practice to change ineffective habits. Learning to ASK reflective questions, rather than TELLING young people what to do is a skill that anyone can learn however, if they are willing to make a conscious effort to do so.